Archive for the ‘Sermons and Talks’ Category

Genes, Social Evolution and God

Genes, Social Evolution and God
By Reverend Dr. Thomas D. Lynch
Talk given to the UU Church in Hildago County, Texas
And UU Church in San Miguel de Allende, Gto.,Mexico

November 4, 2007 and December 16, 2007


For me, saying that God uses evolution as a key biological and social tool seems extremely reasonable because I do have a Ph.D. My education of 12 plus 10 years has ingrained in me a cautious acceptance of theories such as evolution, a strong doubt for anything based entirely or almost entirely on “trust me” assertions, and an acceptance of the scientific method in defining what a community of rational thinkers call knowledge. Therefore, I find that the fundamentalists’ argument for using literal interpretations of the Bible to be absurd. I just cannot make any sense of their argument.

To me, the Bible is extremely metaphorical and my challenge is trying to understand exactly what it is teaching others and me. In particular, I find the story of creation, which Jewish tradition tells us was written down by Moses, can only make sense if it is metaphorical. Even if God told Moses the creation story as contemporary science explains it, I cannot imagine that Moses would have had the conceptual background needed to understand that explanation. God had to dumb it down for him and I should add God must dumb it down for me.

I do not see how God could have done anything else but give Moses a metaphorical explanation of creation. Anyone who has taught knows that learning is a building or evolutionary process. You cannot teach advanced physics to a child in grade 1. I like to think of God as the ultimate teacher. He would have to use a metaphorical explanation to explain what was really important about creation for not only Moses but also for us in our time. If you believe the Bible is for all people through time and take a literal interpretation of it, then we would have to give up some remarkable advances in our accumulated knowledge we call science. On the other hand, if you believe the Bible is essentially a metaphorical communication by God to teach us through time significant lessons for each of us in our era and circumstance, then the Bible becomes a useful tool.

Frankly, our scientific theory of creation would not have made much sense to a person born with the background of Moses. He would not be comfortable with the Egyptian creation story and he would not have understood our current scientific explanation. He needed an alternative story. The human characteristic called curiosity would naturally fill in the blanks with his imaginations or he would rely upon Jewish oral stories of his day to explain creation. I suspect that it might have been a combination, but I am also comfortable with a divine explanation that God told the story to him. I am also comfortable with scholars that say the Torah was written and rewritten over the centuries.

For those not familiar with the term Torah, it refers to the first five books of what Christians call the Old Testament and Jews call the Jewish Bible. Devote Jews believe that those books were given to Moses on Sinai along with the tablets. For me, who wrote it and when it was written is not so important as its usefulness to my life and its usefulness comes from its metaphorical content and not its literalism.

In my talk today, my major thesis is that evolutionary theory including social evolution is really quite consistent with those who like to believe in God. In that theory, evolution over a great amount of time built certain social characteristics into our human genes and those genes in turn influence our behavior today. Specifically, I am saying that human have what I can a Social Oneness virtue naturally built into them through the process of social evolution. However, in our lives, we need to cultivate the use of wisdom, especially spiritual wisdom, in deciding how to apply the Social Oneness virtue in the various situations we face.

In this talk, I am going to start with discussing the notion of the self and place that concept into the context of human social evolution. My second topic will explain what I believe the Torah brought to humankind in its social evolutionary path. My third topic explains that Jesus built on the message of the Torah as he tried to help the Jews and the rest of us socially understand the complexity of the Torah message. In my final topic, I shall try to offer some additional thoughts that I believe can extend us even further on our social evolutionary path that challenges us in the twenty-first century.

The Concept of Self

Anyone, who has taken a philosophy class, probably was introduced to the phrase “Cogito ergo sum,” which translated from the Latin means roughly “I think therefore I am.” For each of us, we know that we exist and that is all we can be absolutely sure about. Thus, each of us knows there is a self or what some call an ego. Harvard Professor Lawrence Kohlberg noted, as we grow as an individual from childhood to adolescence and eventually to adulthood, we go through stages of moral development. In his theory, the first stage is the ego. Of course, some of us do not grow morally and we get stuck in stage one or some of the other early stages.

In stage one, we identify our self with our very being or ego. An extreme case of stage one development is the narcissist, who can only think of himself. He is completely in love with himself to the exclusion of everyone else. In the teachings of Jesus, he spoke a great deal about the contrast between Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God. As I mentioned in other talks here, those two terms represented mindsets and not physical places. The Kingdom of Man mindset is a stage one or near a stage one thinker who places value on having material wealth, power, and satisfying other ego wants.

Please do not misunderstand me. I think that love of the self, as defined as ego, is important. Some of us do not even get past that first stage and we should. When Jesus advocated against the Kingdom of Mind mindset, he was saying that we need to achieve the first stage and significantly we need to go far beyond it. We do that by loving our neighbor in the broadest sense of the word and we also do that by loving a universal God of Oneness.

When Jesus advocated for the Kingdom of God mindset, he was giving us a goal and an ideal that we individually and collectively can move toward if we but only adopt that mindset of caring for others and our environment. Realistically, not many of us will reach stage six and Jesus understood that fact. To him, that was just fine. What is important is that each of us needs to advance up through the stages as much as we can. Even some shifting of the population toward stage six thinking will make a radical positive difference to our world. That is what he meant by creating a Kingdom of God on earth in the near future.

To Kohlberg there were six stages of moral development starting with the ego and moving continually outward from the ego toward the infinite universe. In stage two, he stated that we identify self with those with whom we can reach agreement and only think of self within the context of those agreements. In stage three, the self extends to the family and friends. In stage four, self becomes our group that can be a tribe, profession or nation. In stage five, we see self as the whole and we are concerned with doing the greatest good for the greatest number. In stage six, self becomes some abstract principle that supercedes all other considerations.

Jesus argues to us that we need to expand our love to others while including love of the ego-self. In the Hindu tradition, the larger loved self is Self with a capital S. A reasonable interpretation of Jesus and the Hindu tradition tells us that Self is God but that Self resides outside and inside the person. In this view, we all have the divine spark within us and our challenge is to grow that spark into a metaphorical glowing light. We grow that light first with our expanding love and then with our quest for increasing our spiritual wisdom.

The Buddhist approaches the notion of self differently. To them, Self, written in a small or large letter S, is an illusion that gets us into trouble when we believe in it. Buddhists are pragmatists. Their goal is to end or minimize suffering caused by the human endless quest of wanting. Stop wanting and you will stop your suffering. What you wish flows directly out of your illusion of Self. You identify with objects, wealth, and power. They argue to stop that identification we must stop using the illusion of Self.

Let me summarize to this point in the talk. We can identify ourselves in various ways from being ego centered while excluding others to being principle thinkers to the extent of denying that any form of Self exists. Our great religious traditions tell us that the extreme left of this continuum is what we must avoid and we need to aspire to the extreme right of this continuum. I argue in the next two sections that such an argument has evolved us socially. However, I argue for a refinement of that position in the conclusion of this talk; but before I can make such an argument, I shall next explain the notion of self in the context of social evolution.

Evolution and the Torah

The scientific world is unclear when our species evolved to what we are today. Essentially, we are told that our lineage split off from the lineage that became chimpanzees around six million years ago. The numbers of humans in the world grew slowly until about 3,000 years ago when we figured out that we could plant crops, tend them, and have enough food to start what we now call civilization. The agricultural technological innovation of crops rooted us to particular places and encouraged us to specialize and trade over distances. Thus, for almost all of our existence, we lived in nomadic groups that found food by searching and gathering. Changing weather had a profound impact on us and caring for our children was a remarkable challenge as our very young developed so much more slowly than other animals.

About 15 or 20 million years ago, small forest monkeys in Africa evolved and were able to digest unripe fruit. This put the pre-homo sapiens at big disadvantage as their primary food supply was no longer available. To adapt and find food, they had to move to the forest edge where there was more food but also more danger from big cats, canines, and other savanna predators. Evolution adapted them by making our ancestors larger and able to associate in larger social groups. The latter evolutionary change gave the individuals more eyes to detect enemies and a better ability to fight back as there is strength in numbers.

This need to be in larger working groups created the classic human problem that exists to this day. The members of the group needed to be smart enough to balance their individual needs with those of the pack. For us as humans working in groups, we need to cooperate and exercise some individual restraint. We must understand behavior of other group members and how to comprehend and manage one’s place in an ever-shifting array of alliances that members formed in order to function in bigger groups.

The first tool to help create this bonding within groups was grooming one another. For example, monkeys, great apes, and some teenage girls and boys spend up to a fifth of their time grooming. Although this social bonding tool still exists today, it proved insufficient and another tool was necessary: talking.

The need to understand social dynamics rather than the need for food or how to navigate terrain spurred and rewarded evolution that resulted in bigger and bigger primate brains. There is a correlation between brain size and the size of social groups used by a specie. Our cognitive abilities that permit social group interaction are in the outer neocortex of the brain. In most mammals, the neocortex accounts for 30 to 40 percent of brain volume. In higher social primates, it is 50 to 65 percent. In humans, it is 82 percent.

No strong correlation exists between the neocortex size and tasks like hunting, navigating, or creating shelter. However, understanding one another, especially in the context of groups, does require great cognitive abilities. The only way that humans can handle being in groups of over 50 in size is with learning how to talk and using that skill in connection with understanding group behavior cognitively.

For humans, group living became essential for survival. Some in the group had to hunt and gather and others had to literally keep the “home” fires burning as they specialized in having and taking care of children. One of the consequences of such social living is that individual behavior in terms of social interaction became highly flexible and tailored to changing circumstances. For example, a woman at some point in her short years might have to rear one or more children but also might have to hunt and gather food, especially if food was hard to find.

The first book of the Torah tells us that one of the very first brothers of our specie committed murder. Murder and warfare were very common in the six million-year history of humankind. Scientist, such as Sam Bowles, tell us that possibly 15 percent of those born in a given year died due to war or murder. Thus, fighting among social groups and within social groups was not unusual but common. The Torah provides us with the same lesson as extensive warring and murder are duly reported in its pages.

Jews and Christians know the covenant between God and the Jewish people. Essentially, God made a deal with a people, who were descendants of Abraham. It was simple and direct: Believe in me and follow my rules. If you do that, I will take care of you. If you do not, I will punish you. A closer reading of the Torah points out that God had Moses form the 12 Hebrew tribes, who descended from grandson Jacob (Israel) of Abraham, into a large social group. God gave them a leader in the person of Moses. God defined for them identifiable group characteristics such as circumcision and how to wear their clothing in a manner different from others, a set of ethical rules that made group living possible, and a mission or goal for them to follow. The Torah is about Jews becoming a definable people that God required to be righteous and just. It is also about a people who could not and did not always abide by the covenant.

In his research, Bowles makes the point that super cooperative, selfless humans could wipe out less-united groups. This happens when the cooperative group practices monogamy and the sharing of food with other group members. Such practices reduced the ability of the selfish members to out reproduce their more generous members. Monogamy or near monogamy helped the spread of selflessness because it reduced the differences in the number of children that different people have. Alternatively, if one or two males monopolized all the females in the group, any genes involved in selflessness would quickly disappear and overtime the social group would be less stable.

A perfect example of this better type of group is the Jewish nation and people. When they followed God’s direction, they were able to wipe out their enemies; and when they did not, their enemies won. Clearly, God’s actions, that are described in the Torah, made the Jewish people much more cooperative and selfless toward each other and even other peoples. When the Jews failed to follow God’s directions, they became less united and lost battles and eventually their nation twice.

The Torah is a story with a divine social lesson. Social Oneness is important if you are interesting in surviving as a group or even surviving as an individual. In more scientific language, Bowles argues that a genetic predisposition for selflessness is likely to grow where there are fewer examples of group disparities and discord. The Jewish Bible affirms that theory.

The Torah cites many examples of a Jewish group stoning and killing their own people when the non-conforming Jews violated the norms of the group. Thus, more selfless Jews purged the more selfish from the group. To the modern person, such actions seems remarkable harsh and flatly wrong. However if Bowles is correct, non-conforming individuals weaken the whole group. The Torah is about the whole group. If the group did not drive out or kill such people, the Jewish nation would not have won its battles and would not have become a nation.

In contrast, people, who followed the group’s formal and informal rules, made the group much more collectively strong. Thus, theoretically they had an evolutionary social advantage that helped their group to survival as a group. The fact that the Jews are still a social group after more than 3,500 years speaks to the correctness of Bowles’s theory.

Evolution and Jesus

As I have mentioned in an earlier talk here, I strongly disagree with the prevailing dominant interpretation of the New Testament. Instead, I argue the Jesus was a reform Jew that was trying to get the Jewish people to understand and apply the concept of Social Oneness. His ministry was about the Kingdom of God, which was not a place but rather a selfless mindset. He understood the larger message in the Torah that I have described here and he felt that then Jewish religious leadership was not bringing that message to his people. He knew that almost every individual was flexible enough to be ego or selfless centered or some combination of both. His ministry was to move his people away from the ego-centered mindset and toward a selfless centered mindset.

Generally, we are more selfless than we give ourselves credit, as the so-called punishment games developed by economists have demonstrated. They are two very simple games. In the first, we are told to assume one person is a dictator that has $1,000 and the second person has no money. On average over many games with different people playing the two persons, how much would the dictator give to the second person?

In the second game, we still have two people playing but a rule is added. If the second person does not like the offer made by the first person, he or she can refuse the offer. If the second person refuses, then both persons get nothing. On average over many games, how much would the first person give to the second person?

The dismal science of economics is predicated on the pessimistic thinking of John Hobbes. Most economists would guess that in the first games that the dictator would maximize his potential wealth and thus would keep the $1,000. In the second game, they believe that the second person would reason that something is better than nothing so that the average figure would be much larger for the first person and smaller for the second person.

Empirical observation of the game actually being played tells us the economists are wrong, as some people seem to have a selfless gene in them that might have developed because of social evolution. In the first game, many people are nice enough to share with someone they don’t know. In the second game, many people forgo getting anything themselves in order to punish someone who made an ungenerous offer. Humans seems to have evolved to being good at conforming to the prevailing cultural norms and to enjoy making sure that those norms are enforced. Thus, there are apparently genes that foster friendly behavior toward others.

Conclusions and Recommendations

There is scientific evidence that such friendly genes do exist. The proof is called Williams syndrome. If you have Williams syndrome, you tend to have poor cardiovascular functions, a small, pointed “elfin” face, and you are weirdly, incautiously friendly and nice to all other people. You can learn the phrase “Don’t talk to strangers” but you can’t translate it into action.

You are missing a small segment of Number 7 Chromosome and that means you are missing 20 genes. Almost all people have 46 chromosomes in 23 pairs from your mother and father. Thus, for a person with the Williams syndrome, he or she has one set of Number 7 Chromosome that is normal and the other is missing 20 genes. Somehow, this insufficiency results in very nice people, who are not capable of learning how not to be nice. The Williams syndrome shows that friendliness has a genetic underpinning.

What apparently happened to humans over centuries is that we developed both the selfish and selfless sets of genes. Centuries of social situations taught us that working cooperatively was helpful but not in all situations. Selfless genes dominate some and selfish genes dominate others within humankind. Therefore, in any population, some people tend to think only of themselves, others tend be selfless, and most of us are a mix of both. In other words, Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is affirmed.

The practical implications of this scientific finding are important. Almost all of us are born with built in selfish / selfless social tendencies, but we are also born with the mental capacity to turn on or off either set of genes. Freewill does exist, but each of us has a default setting. If you are naturally selfish, you can train yourself to become less selfish and more selfless. Conversely, if you are naturally selfless, you can train yourself to become less selfless and more selfish.

Essentially, we are born with what I call a Social Oneness virtue. Thus, almost all of us are genetically hardwired with both selfish / selfless social tendencies but some of us are more selfish and others more selfless within the population called humans. In other words, some of us think greed is good, others consider such thoughts as demonic, and most of us have mix of such thoughts that vary by circumstance.

We can think of the Social Oneness virtue as being on a continuum. The inadequacy vice of ego centeredness selfishness is at one end of the continuum and the excess vice of no caution selfless is at the other end. People fall naturally somewhere along this continuum as they deal with social situations but they can also override their genetic programming because they have both sets of selfish and selfless genes and they have a mind that can reprogram their behavior.

Thus, Jesus was correct. People as a whole and certainly some people in particular can be moved along this continuum away from selfishness toward selflessness. Nevertheless, genetic programming is powerful and only a few will significantly lose all of their selfish or selfless characteristics. However, even shifting the range somewhat toward selflessness makes significant advancement in civilization possible as the Bible helps us understand. People are capable of social learning as the American progress in Civil Rights demonstrates. Certainly, racism continues to exist in the twenty-first century among some Americans, but the range of such attitudes clearly has shifted significantly toward selflessness in spite of the fact that some people still define their group by definition as being “better” or “superior” than other racial groups.

For each of us, our life is a series of situations that we approach with our enhanced genetic social programming but those life situations are contextual to time and place. What is the “correct” or Golden Mean Social Oneness decision for an individual or group depends to a greater or lesser extent on the context of the life situation. Often, we should be more selfless; but sometimes, we need to be more selfish. We must use wisdom including critical thinking when we make those life decisions on a case-by-case basis. From a public policy perspective, we must narrow the chances of having negative situations that bring on selfish behavior and teach wisdom as much as possible so that individual and collective correct choices are more likely to occur.

In teaching us to love our neighbor, Jesus was not telling geneticist to cut off those 20 genes. Our Free Choice is one of God’s important gifts to us but choices are best if they are wise ones within the context of our behavioral tendencies and our circumstances. Many of us may think loving behavior is always best, but there are situations where we need to apply the brakes to friendly behavior. For example, we are always wiser to pick and chose our friends so that those around us re-enforce our positive behavior and do not bring out our bad behavior.

In the Gospel of Thomas, Mary asked Jesus, “What do your disciples resemble?” His answer was not very flattering for his disciples but his answer does tell us something about those that tend to be selfless. Jesus said, “What they resemble is children living in a plot of land that is not theirs. When the owners of the land comes they will say, ‘Surrender our land to us.’” In other words, they cannot understand why others are not also selfless. Thus, they naively approach social confrontational situations much like people with William syndrome. They must learn to be better prepared for life’s situations and learn to rely on people who can better use their Social Oneness virtue by employing wisdom.

Jesus was trying to encourage the general public to be much more friendly toward others as that is the larger and more serious problem in choosing the correct Golden Mean for the Social Oneness virtue in his or our society. Many of us act in an unfriendly manner toward others, especially if they fall outside of what we identify as our social group. Almost all of us need to expand our self-identity to include everyone and everything. However, we must also not forget that the persons most likely to hurt us are usually those that are closest to us.

As an educator, I am a firm believer that each person needs to develop their intelligence and skills as much as possible so that they can bring out their greater abilities and enhance not only their lives but also our lives. For people living in social or economic poverty, this can be very difficult and possibly impossible. To some societies, developing the intellectual, physical, or spiritual self, especially for minorities and women, seems like an extreme self-centered act that is done at the expense of the family’s welfare.

Thus, the selfless gene tells a woman at the micro level that she must sacrifice her education for the family, as she has “no real choice.” Maybe, she is correct but I suspect that I would think otherwise in at least some situations. Clearly, what is wrong at the macro level is having public policies that force women and men to make such choices. For society to advance as much as possible, we need all of the creative talent possible and we do not need public policies that make that impossible.

The story of Martha and Mary in the Gospel of Luke is appropriate here. Jesus was visiting a house that contained Martha, Mary, and others. Mary listen to the words of Jesus and Martha was busy serving the group. Eventually, Martha complained about Mary not helping with the serving. Jesus answered: “Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things: but one this is needful: and Mary has chosen the correct path, which shall not be taken away from her.” The social selfless gene is important and serving others is important. However, learning, especially from the master, is radically more important. We must keep our decisions in perspective if we are to make the wise choice.

I am saying that one approach to Social Oneness does not make sense for all people. We need to adapt ourselves not only to our conditions but also to correct dysfunctional tendencies in our social behavior. We need to apply wisdom to sort out the correct course of action for a particular situation and a particular person. We need to realize that Social Oneness is a virtue that we need to cultivate and grow within ourselves. We also need to realize that the correct course of action or Golden Mean is somewhere between the two vices of ego centeredness and no caution.

So where do we find such wisdom? It takes effort to find but it is found in the spiritual wisdom literature of every faith tradition. It is also found in the halls of the academy, our libraries, our bookstores, and on the Internet that you can access. In all cases when you look for wisdom, you must seek to find it and you will find it as it is always there. The challenges are recognizing it, separating it from the non-wisdom material, valuing it, and applying it to your every day life.

As this is the end of my talk, some summary comments are needed. I pointed out that evolution and especially social evolution is really quite consistent with those like myself who like to believe in God. I believe I showed how one defines self and that the scope of the meaning of self varies among us. The use of the concept of self is central to religious and moral thought. I placed that varying understanding of self into the context of human social evolution, and I believe that I demonstrated that the Torah helped moved humankind along its social evolutionary path. In addition, I showed that Jesus tried to build on the message of the Torah in terms of the social evolution of humankind.

Finally, I tried to make the point that we need to think of none cautionary selflessness and ego centeredness as extreme deficiency and excess vices of a Social Oneness virtue. This is a virtue that can and should be taught by schools and churches. Thinking that there is one approach to Social Oneness for all people in all circumstances does not make sense. We need to teach people to adapt themselves not only to their conditions but also to compensate for dysfunctional tendencies in their social behavior.

We need to teach people how to apply practical wisdom to sort out the correct course of action for them in the most common situations for their personality type. We need to stress that Social Oneness is a virtue that we can and should cultivate within ourselves. We also need to be sensitive to the conceptual reality that any correct course of action or Golden Mean is always somewhere between the two vices of “ego centeredness” and “no caution selflessness.”

I hoped you enjoyed and gained something important from this talk. Thank you for your attention and if time permits I am now open to your questions and comments.

The Issue of a Personal God

The Issue of a Personal God

By Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Lynch

The God in the Torah seems quite different from the God of the New Testament and even of later portions of the Hebrew Bible. Yet, Christians and Jews consider that God to be the same. That difference centers around the question is if God is personal to the believer or not. What follows is a discussion of this issue that for many believers is central to how they approach their belief in God.

This essay is divided into four parts. The first section discusses the God of the Torah. The second section discusses the issue of a personal god. The third section discusses the challenge presented by the fact that bad things happen to good people. The fourth section discusses a rational for believing in a personal god in spite of the challenges discussed earlier.

The God of the Torah

The Torah is a story of how God picked a particular person (Abraham) and over many years took the descendants of that person and shaped them into not only a distinctive people but also a chosen people. Looking at the history of the Jews, we can easily see that being God’s chosen people does not mean living in great splendor or having ultimate political power over the world. However, it does apparently mean that such a people will have a remarkable and disproportion influence on the dominant civilizations of the world.

The God of the Torah is not a personal god except to only a few people such as Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. This God is interested in a people and their evolution as a people. He makes sure that they have rules of moral conduct, that they worship in particular manner, and they have unique practices that sets them apart from the other peoples of the world. He helps them win battles.

This God is willing and does kill many enemies of the Jews but also many Jews that do not follow his word. Although this God includes in a moral code a clear statement against killing, he actively and commonly kills and sometimes approves demonstratively those that kill and even murder furthering his purposes.

In the times of ancient Israel, Gods were not personal with some notable exceptions. Gods had their lives and normally took little interests in the affairs of humans. However, if humans begged and employed them enough with the proper prayers and offerings, sometimes one or more Gods did affirmatively answer human prayers such as give them an advantage in battle.

Just like the Hebrew God, other gods of the region had their human favorites and did occasionally help them in extraordinary ways. However, the Hebrew God and the other gods did expect the humans to also help themselves as well as being loyal to their respective Gods.

The Hebrew God was different than the Greek and Roman gods but some similarities are important. Jealousy was a noticeable trait of the Gods. Killing and war were common activities. Worship was expected from humans. Nevertheless, the Hebrew God was significantly different beyond being one rather than many. The Hebrew God was a teacher of a people.

The Torah shows us that the Hebrew God tending His “sheep.” They were His identified group of humans that He called His chosen people. Clearly, He had his favorite sheep among the flock such as Jacob, but he was also teaching all of his sheep to be a moral and to identify themselves as a distinct people who worshipped God in particular ways.

His sheep did often go astray and were very stubborn, but he flocked them back and culled some of the more dysfunctional sheep from the flock. As God helped them grow into a nation from their slave period in Egypt, He helped them locate in what we today call Israel.

A Personal God or Not

For many of us in our times, God is very personal. By personal, I mean that God cares about you as an individual and interacts with you individually on a constant basis. Many believe that God sends his angels to watch over them and that God directly intervenes for each person in his or her daily life.

Yes, such believers think God lets bad things happen to good people, but in their minds there is always a good reason for such actions even if they do not yet understand those reasons. For some, that reason is to punish others or themselves for past misdeeds. For some, that reason is to help them grow spiritually into a better person. For some, they just do not know the reason but they assume God has a good reason beyond their understanding for those “bad things” happening.

At the beginning of the American republic, leaders such as George Washington confronted the question of how God could let bad things happen to good people by reasoning that God was not a personal God. God created the universe; and except for very unusual circumstances, God merely let his creation operate on automatic with humans given the important gift of free will and the resulting good and bad consequences that stemmed from those free will choices.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

The question of how God could let bad things happen to good people is troublesome for people of faith. It is particularly troublesome for those that believe in a personnel God that does care for them. At this point, what I offer now is an insight that might be useful to those believers. I do not claim to have a final and undisputable answer but possibly what I offer might be useful to some that do struggle with this difficult questioning of faith.

As much as possible, my wife and I live in Mexico. As I approach and leave our rented house, I experience almost daily kids asking for “mo-nee.” When we first moved in and afterwards, I made the mistake of giving some small change to one nine year old. Now, I have ten kids — aged from four to fourteen — begging for money when I am outside my house and continually ringing the doorbell asking for money.

I am sure that if I gave them “mo-nee” that I would soon have one hundred or more kids asking for handouts. Of the one kid who I have given money for “work,” I noticed he used his earnings to buy candy, cokes, and other immediate consumable junk foods. I assume the other kids would do the same as when they ask for “mo-nee” that mention it is for junk food.

This got me thinking: what if God gave all human being in the world all the “mo-nee” we asked for when we asked for it. Given the powers we attribute to God, He could be an unlimited ATM machine who simple spit out “mo-nee” when a request was made. My guess is that most of us would use that largess to buy the equivalent of adult junk food in the largest sense of that concept.

If God were an ATM machine, why work? Interestingly, no one would make any kind of junk food or anything else, as that would be work and they would see no need to work. Unless God provided the goods by some miracle, it and nothing would be available for purchase. Everyone would have the “mo-nee” but no one would be able to buy anything with it. Clearly, God would be stupid to be an ATM machine and I do not think God is stupid.

So if God is a personal God, what makes sense? I immediately thought about the old adage about teaching a person to fish rather than giving him a fish. If you give a person a fish, they have enough for one meal. But if you teach them how to fish, they have food for a lifetime or something like that.

I then thought about the over fishing that currently exists in the world. Clearly, the impact of teaching how to do fishing or “better” fishing has been dysfunctional. Something more is needed than teaching fishing or its equivalent in our life endeavors.

To me the answer is still teaching “fishing,” but it is more than teaching a useful skill or trade. It is teaching that includes ethics and wisdom that goes well beyond the “me, my, mind” attitude that prevails in much of the world today. For example, it is teaching fishing but also a concern for the environment that prevents over fishing the oceans.

Yes, learning is important but learning useful knowledge and skills clearly is not enough. As a person makes daily decisions, each person must think beyond him or herself to the oneness, which that person is but a part. The fishes of the oceans are part of that oneness, and our over fishing does diminish that oneness and thus does diminish us.

What Makes Sense?

Let me repeat myself: If God is a personal God, what makes sense? God must create the circumstances including the motivation so that each of us can learn and that learning must include an ethic and wisdom that focuses on the oneness of which we are all a part.

Anyone who has been a teacher knows that the students who learn the most and gain the most from education are those that freely choose and want to learn. Thus, freedom of choice is an important element of learning. Another element of learning is appreciating the negative side of doing something wrong. Many of us learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.

To illustrate, let us consider learning the ethical virtue of gratefulness. If we use the Aristotle concept of virtue, we realize that virtue is not an on and off switch but rather a rheostat that moves the light up or down. Like light, we can turn the light to low or high. What we need to do is adjust the light to the needs of the particular moment.

On either side of a virtue, there is too little and too much. Both are “sins.” For the virtue of gratefulness, I shall label the first sin as “ingratitude” and the other as “fawning.” Thus, if a person shows no appreciation for a gift, we can say the person acts with ingratitude. If the person shows excessive appreciation for a gift, we can say the person acts with fawning.

Thus, the learning challenge for the student is to learn to show gratefulness that for any given situation is not ingratitude or fawning, but rather the correct level of appreciate for the given situation. When my Mexican young friend does some “work” for me such as walking our dog, I expect some small measure of gratefulness such as a smile.

When my wife and I give him a bike, I expect a larger display of gratefulness such as saying “gratis” and a smile showing thanks. I do not need or what gratefulness but I do want him to function correctly in a larger society and learning the virtue of gratefulness is important for his development as a person.

Looking back on my life, I felt that I have continually been taught wisdom and ethical lessons if I but opened by eyes to what was happening around me. However, the reality is that often I was blind to many of those lessons. No one should blame a person for being blind. It just is. I should not blame myself and nor should anyone blame me for that blindness. Nevertheless, we need not continue living in the world of the unsighted.

We can choose to see what is happening around us and to learn those lessons taught to us by God. In the process of learning, we grow as a person. Sometimes we easily learn those lessons. However, too often we learn those lessons the hard way and the cost of that education is very high, such as the lost of a friendship or even a spouse.

When those easy or hard lessons occur in our lives, the wiser among us reflect on what happened and seek to gain greater wisdom so that he or she grows as a person. I look upon those occasions as gifts from a very personal God. Each of us is a co-creator with God. We must accept each gift from God with gratitude but we must also unwrap the gift and apply it to the rest of our life.

I believe the God of the Torah is the God of the New Testament. God is shepherding the chosen people but also watching over every person – past, present, and future. Yes, certain sheep are more important to the larger task of herding all the sheep to the correct destination, but shepherding includes trying to help cooperative sheep to be the best one he or she can be. Each is important but never to the point of endangering the flock or not attaining the ultimate destination for the whole flock.

To me, I expect that bad things will always happen to good people. This reality is merely a very personal God helping others and me to grow and allowing me to be a co-creator in that growth process. Sometimes, bad things have and will happen to me. My challenge is to open my eyes, reflect, and gain from each and every such experience, as it is a gift. God is infinite and my growth potential as a co-creator is also infinite. I must keep my eyes open for the light and be eternally grateful for the gifts that I am always receiving.

July, 2008

Religion in Crisis


By Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Lynch

Presented at Biblioteca, August 6 and 13, 2009

San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico


Religion today is in crisis. I am not talking about any one religion, as I am addressing religion in general. What I mean by crisis is that increasingly it is difficult for a thoughtful person of reason to be also a person of faith. I am sure what I have to say will offend some and please understand that is not my intension. Rather my intension is to raise what I believe are important questions about religion, which are uncomfortable and therefore often ignored rather than confronted directly.

Let me stress that I approach this subject as a person of faith, but I do believe the atheists of the world have strong arguments. People of faith need to consider their arguments and those of church reformers such as Episcopal Bishop Spong. Then, they need to reconsider their thoughts about religions based upon the crisis that is at hand. Episcopal Bishop Spong focused his critical observations only on the Christian church, but I believe many of his views apply to religion in general. He argues that Christianity is in crisis and we need to reassess our approach and understand it in light of that crisis.


Before I discuss the crisis, I am going to briefly review the evolution of religion and its functional roles in society using very broad strokes. For thousands of years in what scholars call pre-history, hunter gathers groups lived and worked together in family and tribal units that mutually supported and defended each other. Commonly, one or more in the group became the religious leader and that person or persons would specialize in caring for the sick, praying to what the group felt were superior beings to help them in the challenges of their lives, and taking charge of key social ceremonies such as becoming an adult, births, weddings, and deaths. Today, those religious leaders among indigenous peoples are often called shamans.

Probably about 7,000 years ago some of these hunter gathers groups settled near rivers and lakes and domesticated some animals and developed agriculture. This anchored them to one place and because of the success of agriculture their population and the density of that population grew. Eventually, the first small cities came into being. Typically, the political leader of these small cities would be closely allied with their religious leader. The political leader would require everyone in their group to worship as directed by the religious leader. In return, the religious leader or leaders politically supported the secular leader and in some cases the secular leader was also the supreme religious leader.

Thus, religion continued all the functions it had with hunter gathers but a new function was added. Essentially, the religious leaders helped the group to function as a cohesive people and nation. Religion became the glue or at least part of the glue that held the now larger group together under the leadership of the political leader. Often in such groups, the political leader was considered a god or a direct descendant of the gods. This added title gave the political leader even more credible authority over the society and placed him above any laws or rules the group might have. Many if not most political leaders of various peoples around the world used the concept of God to their political advantage. Clearly, this arrangement worked remarkably and still can be seen in the world today.

Because of the intellectual curiosity of human beings and the need to have concert answers to questions that were not easily answered, each religion developed their own myth stories to address the big questions of humankind such as where did we come from, how should we behave within our group, and what roles and behaviors are appropriate and not appropriate for us in our society. Religion was not only the glue for society but also the place where most of the big and often unanswerable questions were addressed before science came into existence.

In summary, the functionality of religion from its beginning was to provide a social means to celebrate and observe major times in our lives, provide medical assistance to the people, be the glue that helped political leaders maintain power and control a large group of people as a society, and answer the big questions that seemed beyond human understanding. Of course the rise of science and philosophy has greatly mitigated the last role, particularly medicine has changed some of the previous functions of religion. Nevertheless, to some extent those roles continue to this day.


To return to my theme, at some point in pre-history humans started believing that there was a god or a group of gods. This was the First Religious Awakening and it was vital to human evolution. With it, humankind was able to move from the hunter gather stage of social evolution to our complex modern civilization. At this point, my many atheist friends might say that my analysis might be correct but it does not prove that God exists or that religions should continue to exist. Let me stress that I am not trying to prove that God exists. However, I am trying to demonstrate that religion in the past was functional to human social evolution and that there are functional social roles for religions in the present and future. However, some of those roles urgently need to be updated given the realities of globalization and science. I will address that topic later.

Typically, an important role for the gods after the First Awakening was to be a higher power that could and would help them in their daily challenges such as making their spear fly straight so that the animal could be killed and the family would eat that night. As the First Awakening continued over thousands of years, humans evolved into what we call civilizations and another important role for god and the gods was added. Later, religion helped the secular leader hold the larger group together as a nation and an empire. Typically, the priest class created a myth structure that assisted the political leader with legitimacy and provided a set of rules in which society could better work as a political and social unit.


As populations and densities of peoples increased over time, a Second Religious Awakening occurred throughout the world. However, it did not in all circumstances replace or even modifying the First Awakening. Nevertheless, it was a significant change for many religions. As more city and nation states appeared, brutal wars and conflicts among peoples became more common, especially as humans discovered how to make better tools of war, such as stronger metals for their weapons.

To address this brutal aspect of humankind that focused on the ego desire to dominate others, key religious leaders in various places in the world reformed their religions to stress the value we commonly call the Golden Rule. That is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This value, using similar but not the exact wording, spread around the world until today it is found in almost all of the world’s religions. In some cases, religious leaders created whole new religions such as Buddhism and Christianity that stressed this value as central to their teachings. In other cases, older religions, such as Hinduism and Judaism, adopted this value and it can easily be seen in their teaching today.

This Second Religious Awakening also focused on the concept of Oneness. This religious reform changed our understanding of the deity from seeing God as an entity that lived some place else such as in the sky to seeing God in us and in all places at the same time. Thus, God was not in any one place but was everywhere. With the Second Awakening, instead of God being a big man with a beard that lived in the sky and threw thunder bolts down on people, God became a great mystery or unknown that humans could never totally understand because of the infinite nature of God.

The world’s religions did not adopt this Oneness aspect of the Second Awakening as much as the Golden Rule. Some religions, such as Christianity, had Oneness at its core in its beginning as can be seen in the New Testament, which quotes Jesus on the subject. However, soon after Jesus’ passing from the scene, the influence of the Roman and Jewish faiths prevailed. The new revised Christian faith adopted the first awakening belief that said that God existed in a place called Heaven. Other religions, such as Hinduism, strongly committed itself to this Oneness belief as it evolved over the centuries. Increasingly, as this reform came into being, their multiple gods melted into the Oneness and were redefined as really being just infinite aspects of the Oneness.

With the Second Awakening and its stress on Oneness, God continued to have the same major roles as before but a new role was added. Now, God also helped us as individuals grow spiritually, which included growing with spiritual wisdom and ethics. Thus, the role of religion changed to include teaching spirituality and ethics. In some religions such as Christianity, the Golden Rule with its ethical implications was stressed but the notion of Oneness with its stress on teaching spirituality was lost. In other religions such as Buddhism, the primary stress was on spirituality often using meditation as the means to grow the individual’s spirituality.

In summary, the Second Religious Awakening influenced the beliefs within each of the world’s religious traditions but not all the groups within each tradition incorporated either or both aspects of the Second Religious Awakening into their belief systems. There are segments of almost all religions (often called mystics) that have totally adopted the Second Awakening reforms. There are also segments (often called fundamentalists) that have maintained the First Awakening totally and have not accepted any of the Second Awakening reforms.

One interesting impact of the Golden Rule value is that it led some to challenge the very notion or existence of God. Many in this set of people prayed to God and asked God to save the life of an innocent loved one. Their heartfelt prayers were not answered affirmatively. Having embraced the values of the Golden Rule, they critically reasoned that a loving caring God could not let one or more individuals suffer needlessly. To them, such an indifferent God could not exist and in any case certainly should not be worshipped. Therefore, a belief in God was foolish.

For those people that embraced both the Golden Rule and Oneness aspects of the Second Awakening, the logical necessity for atheism was not so obvious. In fact, few from this segment of each religion reached the conclusion that God was dead. Their understanding of God, as being within them and outside them, brought them to understand suffering as something that is primarily a state of mind and that life should be merely considered as a long set of experiences that a wiser person uses to learn and grow. Even the so-called worst of experiences, such as a death camp, is merely an opportunity for a person to learn and grow spiritually. Thus, the fact that bad things happen to good people is not a reason to declare God dead but rather an opportunity to look deeper inside and search for how a person can positively learn and grow from the experience.

Because segments of almost all the major religions have embraced the Second Awakening reforms, there is a spectrum of beliefs in which some accept all the Second Awakening reforms and some accept none of them. Often, the segments that adopted all the second reforms are called mystics or spiritual. When asked if they are religious, they tend to answer that they are not so much “religious as they are spiritual.” When pressed to explain, many of them often say they dislike and even distrust organized religion.

Among the mystical or spiritual wing of religions, there is a remarkable parallel in their beliefs and values. For example, they each have a spiritual wisdom literature, which is remarkably similar to that parallel literature found in almost all other religions. The rituals tend to differ among the various mystical and spiritual wings, but they all tend to demonstrate joy and awe as they practice their rituals.

To me, each religion is merely an attempt to understand God from a particular set of perspectives that a cultural, political and social reality of various eras and places has influenced. For all religions, our very humanness, which we cannot escape, colors our attempt to understand God and spirituality. By looking at many religions and looking for what they have in common, I believe that someone can arrive at a clearer understanding of what it means to be a person of faith.

As an Interfaith Minister, I find this spiritual wing of each religion to be particularly interesting as this is where I find affirmation for my beliefs. For example, I believe that God loves all of us and there is not one religious path to what some call salvation. I believe that by looking at what religions have in common that one can better answer difficult religious questions or at least have a better insight into what the answer might be. In other words, I believe one is wiser to triangulate using many religions rather than trying to understand god using just one religion.


At this point, I am returning to my central theme of religion in crisis. Many very intelligent people argue that God is a human creation, meaning that God is merely a shared social concept that we project and is therefore an illusion. I do agree with them that much of what we say about God is a human creation, but nevertheless I also believe that God exists. I think that many of our misunderstanding and actions about or concerning God directly flow from those very same human creations. Thus, a better understanding of them will help us get past the illusions and help us become more spiritual persons.

My atheist friends point to the many religious traditions and stress how they differ significantly. From this, some conclude that God does not exist and religion is mere foolishness. In contrast, I point to the mystical and spiritual wing of all the faith traditions and note how they are remarkably similar. From this, I conclude that God does exist.

Some of my atheist friends argue that humankind can and should declare God dead by merely getting past our own created illusions. In contrast, I argue that just because many understandings of God are based on human imagination does not mean that God does not exist. The fact that humans have believed in God since pre-history tells me that many humans feel a need for God in their lives. Yes, I agree that some of religion consists of or is based on illusion, but nevertheless many aspects of religion are still quite functional to society, especially its spiritually uplifting aspect.

With increasing globalization and rapidly advancing scientific advances, some atheists challenge my argument for the functionality of religion. With globalization, they argue that the peoples of the world are experiencing a clash of cultures. For example, they note the Judo Christian Western culture is clashing with Islamic culture with the result of war and attacks on innocent civilians. Some in Islamic cultures perceive that Judo Christian Culture demands that all the peoples of the world must adopt some Western culture beliefs such as women’s rights and this would prohibits them from being good Muslims. In order to resist and push back, some elements of Islamic culture resort to violence.

Although I agree that some view this clash in cultures as a reason for violence, I think the clash is not as serious as they have decided. One of the core values of Western culture is freedom of religion and there exists in Western culture a large tolerance for the customs and religions of others. In addition, many in the Islamic religion note that their Holy Scriptures specifically teaches religious tolerance toward Jews and Christians. Of course there are limits to the tolerance of each religion, but there is reason to hope for peace and active cooperation among at least the more liberal and moderate segments of each of these religions in the world today.

Nevertheless, these culture clashes do inspire radical Islam, radical Christianity, radical Judaism, and radical Hinduism to violence against other religious groups. This is particularly true if there is not an established history of practicing tolerance among the groups. The result of such cultural clashes is hatred with each group easily rationalizing the use of violence, such as the use of bombs against civilian populations.

Those who make a globalization / culture clash argument note that religions may have been a uniting force in some circumstances in the past, but today religions are the major motivation for wars among peoples. To them, the fact that religions are based on faith becomes particularly important. They argue that “people of faith” follow their religious leaders without critical thought. If those leaders call for violence, then “people of faith” respond with violence against those of the other religion.

The answer to this globalization / clash of cultures is not putting down what atheists call the God illusion. Even if religion is the primary excuse for violence in the world, it is not realistic to think that religious groups will give up their religions and peace will then dominate the world. Since pre-history, some peoples wish to take advantage over others and they find some reasons to visit violence upon them. Religion is only one of the many excuses that some use to rationalize violence against others. If we had no religions, some would merely create other reasons to justify violence.

Religions, especially those that adopted the Second Religious Awakening, have and do play a positive role in fostering peace in the world. In fact, as has been noted here, their existence has permitted human society to evolve into increasing more complex groupings. Unfortunately, the fundamentalist and radical wings of each religion do not embrace the Second Awakening reforms and that remains the problem.

One contemporary example of religions being a social instrument for peace in the world is the Parliament of Religions. They meet every four years for the purpose of encouraging religious tolerance and understanding in the world. One of their efforts is to focus on the reality that there are many versions of ethics in the world today. This makes resolving disputes among groups in the world much more difficult. Their suggested reform is that the religions of the world needed to get behind a single global ethic and advocate its use in resolving conflicts in the world.

Another cause of crisis in religion is science. It tells us that our religious myths, which are cited in Holy Scriptures, are wrong. For the more literal fundamentalist religious people among us, science is an attack on their religion. For example, to them the creation story in the first book of the Old Testament (Torah) must be accurate because it is in the Bible. For them, teaching otherwise in public schools is an attack on God’s Holy Word.

A brief note of irony is the inconsistent use of science by many fundamentalists. Besides challenging literal interpretations of Holy Scriptures, science over time also creates more and more ways for people to kill others at an ever-increasing massive scale. Many of these fundamentalists fight against science when it challenges their myth stories but they quickly embrace the use of the more sophisticated weapon systems that science creates. One use of science is incorrect but another is correct. Their logic is difficult to understand.

Segments of religions that have not progressed beyond the First Religions Awakening have beliefs that often include a strong bias against the civil rights of women. For example, fundamentalists of all religions look at women as inferior to men because of their understanding of their Holy Scriptures. Some even believe that having women attend school is clearly an act against God.

Many of these same segments argue against teaching critical thinking in schools and universities. For example, in religious studies courses in college, professors use critical examination of religious texts and then point out the serious logical inconsistent that exists within and among the texts. To those that think Holy Scriptures cannot be in error, inconsistency is impossible; but yet it exists. For fundamentalist believers, the answer is to ignore critical thinkers, who dare point out the inconsistencies.

Globalization, science, and critical thinking are causing the current crisis in religion. Globalization, if done properly, should result in increasing the standard of living and quality of life for most people in the world. Science, if done properly, should mean advancing what we know and that should help in improving our quality of life. Critical thinking, if used properly, should help humankind avoid stupid mistakes. Given their joint likely positive impact on society, one can safely assume that each will continue to exist as will religion.

In all likelihood, the fundamentalist wing of the various religions will continue to resist globalization, science, and critical thinking. Probably, they will be successful in some places in the world. Also probably, those places in the world will fall further and further behind economically and socially. As time passes, the resistance of the fundamentalist will be increasingly difficult to maintain unless they have absolute control over those places.

The more radical elements of the fundamentalist wings of religion may not survive this crisis in religion if they resort to violent attacks against the larger societies. Societies will defend themselves from attacks by fundamentalists. The larger societies will isolate and remove the dysfunctional elements of religion because the larger societies have the economic and military advantage and they really have no choice but to do so. Therefore, globalization, science, and critical thinking will have an impact of what elements of religion survive or change.


I believe that some current or former functions of religions will have to change. For example, many nations in the world have adopted the American innovation of separating church and state. I suspect that it will continue to be adopted as a reform. Thus, the existence of established state financed religion is likely to diminish. Religious leaders will continue to speak out on political and social issues, but I suspect that increasingly the religions will be disestablished as the required state religion and will cease being subsidized by the taxpayers. Why? Because in time religious leaders will grow to appreciate that separation of church and state actually strengthens religions.

I hope and I suspect that the Golden Rule element of the Second Religious Awakening will gain momentum and become a standard for human behavior. With increasing globalization of commerce and information exchange, active partners in globalization will increasingly help peoples realize that one group “doing unto another group before anything can be done unto them” is functional and needed. To reap the maximum benefits of globalization over long periods of time, fairness to all participants will almost have to be the common value associated with globalization. The Golden Rule, which is common to almost all religions, is an excellent general value and one in which almost everyone would consider will result in fair agreements among globalization partners.

I also hope and I suspect that the Oneness element of the Second Religious Awakening will also gain momentum due to the importance of the value called “doubt” that exists in science. Science and the use of the scientific method have meant that “doubt,” as a value, is stage center in our world. As noted earlier, science is in conflict with many aspects of the First Religious Awakening such as the myth stories of religion. In addition, the First Awakening requires people not to doubt (that is have faith) on all matters concerning religion.

Significantly, science is not in conflict with the Oneness element of Second Religious Awakening. The spiritual and mystical wing of religion embraces doubt as a core value. The very first lesson of spiritual wisdom is that a person must always be a seeker and that means he or she must always be questioning. As in science, Oneness requires a person to accept that there are always unknowns and each person is to seek to learn more. For a spiritual person, doubt with its careful questioning is vital to learning more, challenging what is thought to be known, and to push back the frontier of the unknown.


I argue here that every religion and every person of faith needs to address the crisis identified here. As an Interfaith Minister, I think an interfaith approach is one of many means to address and resolve this crisis, which the existence of globalization and science and the use of critical thinking induced. As an Interfaith Minister, I believe that there is not one acceptable approach to learning about God and moving toward what some call salvation. Instead, I believe there are many approaches or paths. My values tell me that each person should be the best that they can be and wish to be. In my mind, the best includes being a spiritual person and that means growing their spirituality including following the Golden Rule and applying Oneness to their lives.

To foster greater spiritual growth, a person needs to learn more about their religion and other religions. With that knowledge, they are better equipped to ask the tough religious questions and better discern the difference between weak and strong answers to those spiritually related questions. In the past few decades, there has been a remarkable improvement in the religious studies literature from outstanding scholars. In addition, there has been a great growth in the literature concerning atheism. To be better spiritually, a person needs to read and understand both sets of literature. A useful approach is to find what the various religions have in common rather than how are they different because learning what religions have in common provides important clues for growing spiritually.

As an Interfaith Minister, I argue that the Second Religious Awakening, started by religious leaders from almost every religious tradition, needs to continue until it successfully changes the religions of the world. For example, people, especially people of faith, need to accept the Golden Rule and apply it to their daily lives, as part of their core values. In addition, people of faith need to accept the concept of Oneness, including embracing the use of doubt and understanding that religious knowledge also grows and evolves, as does science.

Religions have critical functions to perform in society. They should continue to help people who wish to celebrate and observe major events in their lives, provide physical and mental medical assistance in cooperation with other professionals such as medical doctors, offer political and social commentary on the issues of the day, and help communities address their social concerns such as with their charities. As an Interfaith Minister, I also believe that an additional function for religion in society is to help individuals to grow spiritually, if they wish to do so, through helping them ask and address the tough questions rather than just accepting the religious dogma of the past.


The religions of the world are in crisis because many of their more thoughtful followers are increasingly leaving their religions. This is due to at least three realities. First, globalization and its resulting clash of cultures are fostering violent conflicts among the religious peoples of the world. Secondly, science is challenging religious myth stories and thus fundamental beliefs of many religions. Thirdly, critical thought is showing the religious that there are many critical inconsistencies in their Holy Scriptures and this calls into question the foundation of their religious faith. Certainly, religions have and do serve important functions in society, but this crisis remains serious and needs to be addressed rather than ignored.

Religions must move beyond their First Religious Awakening and embrace fully the Second Religious Awakening. If they do that, then each religion can resolve the challenges brought on by globalization, science, and critical thinking. If they accomplish those reforms, religion will be fully functional in the world including being a force for peace in our world rather than an excuse for violence. One approach to getting acceptance of the Second Religions Awakening is through Interfaith Studies. It teaches what religions have in common and this knowledge helps foster greater religious tolerance and positively helps people embrace and grow their spirituality.

The Omega Interpretation


By Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Lynch

Talk given to the UU Church of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

August 5, 2007 and San Juan, Texas, October 14, 2007


Many Christians see God as an ATM machine. You know how it works. You swipe a prayer in a machine possibly called church, punch in your secret code that says that Jesus is God, and you enter your material wish for the moment. Instantly, out pops your money or other material wish. I believe that interpretation, which I call the Alpha Interpretation, is a terrible misunderstanding of why Jesus is important for humankind.

In my opinion, Jesus was a sage and maybe even a prophet, but he was not God. If we are to create for ourselves a better world in which to live, I also believe we need to learn and appreciated what he really taught us rather than accept as gospel this ATM understanding of God.

In this talk, I shall address three questions. First, most likely, where did Jesus get his remarkable ideas that he brought to the world? Second, where did Christianity really get the idea that God is an ATM machine? Thirdly, what really was the message of Jesus, what I call the Omega Interpretation; and why is it a more reasonable interpretation than the Alpha Interpretation?

Where Did Jesus Get His Remarkable Ideas?

For those who believe in the Alpha Interpretation, the answer is that Jesus got his ideas directly from God, as he was the Son of God. In my Omega Interpretation, the answer is that Jesus got his ideas from the same place that you and I get our ideas, as Jesus was just as human as you and I. Each of us is a product of a combination of our DNA and our environment. Thus, our ideas come from our cumulative experiences that are mixed in the pot of our personage that is largely determined by our DNA. Our experiences can lead us to embrace or possibly reject the ideas of those around us, but our ideas result from a reaction to our environment, the intelligence to observe and process information, and a level of awareness or discernment.

If my theory is correct, then one can expect that Jesus should have been anti-Roman Empire, very sexist, and accepting of the religious leadership of the temple in Jerusalem. From the New Testament and what we know about the Galilee as well as the whole Jewish area of the Roman Empire in his time, this theory of how we got his ideas does not match the views that Jesus advocated. Thus, apparently, the theory I announced does not apply to Jesus and the Alpha interpretation is correct. Not really. Sorry, I am just not going there.

In this talk, I shall argue that Jesus does fit this theory if we make a few assumptions that are possible but are not commonly made by the institutions we call the “church.” I shall also argue that my alternative view of where Jesus got his ideas is more reasonable than the Alpha Interpretation we associated with the Jesus story.

Before I begin, I must stress, as an academic, that we historically have very few undisputed facts and know very little about the person called Jesus Christ. Clearly, his life or what people believe was his life has had a remarkable influence on humankind for the past 2,000 years. H. G. Wells said, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

In spite of the fact that Jesus is the dominant figure in history, only one historical document exists that even mentions him. That work was the history of Josephus. Interestingly, some even argue that someone other than Josephus inserted that brief discussion about Jesus in his history many years after Josephus wrote his work. Thus, as of today, maybe there is no real historical evidence that Jesus even existed. Who knows?

I make this point only to stress that my work here is merely speculation, as is the work of others who comment on the life of the historical Jesus. However, I think by the time I am finished today that you will agree that my version is not only a reasonable speculation but that it is more reasonable than the speculation that we use to argue for the Alpha Interpretation and what we literally treat as gospel today.

The New Testament says very little about the background of Jesus. It tells us that he was born in the Bethlehem, which is in the Judah portion of Israel. He was illegitimate and he was born into a poor working class family. The Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament tells us that he and his family moved to Egypt very early in his life and then eventually they moved back to Israel. The other New Testament gospels imply by silence on these matters that nothing like that happened.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that as a young boy that he had an exceptional experience in the Jewish Temple, which we believe was in Jerusalem because most of us think there was only one Jewish Temple and it was in Jerusalem. That is about all we know from the New Testament until the story picks up again when he was a grown man in the Galilee beginning his brief but amazingly effective ministry.

Now, let me take a few liberties in my speculation. Let us say that he was born in Israel and that he and his family did move to Egypt. Now, I took no liberties with those assumptions. However, my further speculation is that he lived in Egypt until he was a man and he did not return to Israel until he visited his mother possibly to attend an important family wedding. I also speculate that the Jewish Temple he attended as a boy was the Temple of Onias in Egypt.

Kadokite Jewish priests, who were direct descendants of Aaron and who had to flee the Jerusalem Temple in a period when Jerusalem was occupied, ran the Temple of Onias, which was located near what is the Cairo airport today. Kadokite priests argued that the priests in Jerusalem were not legitimate under Jewish law because they were not descendants of Aaron and thus the Kadokite priest were the true Jewish priests based on the requirements clearly set out in the Torah.

Beside the experience of Jesus in the Temple of Onias, I also speculate that the Therapeutae Jewish community of Alexandria trained him for many of his most formative years. How he became a part of that community is impossible to say. Possibly, he ran away from home. Possibly, his parents realized that he was remarkably smart and that giving their son to the Therapeutae community was a way that Jesus could get a proper Jewish education from the most outstanding Jewish center of thought outside of Israel.

We cannot know, as no record of the membership of the Therapeutae community exists. In fact, all we know about this community comes from the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who was affiliated in someway with that community. If you are interested in that community and want to know more, just go to Google and lookup both that community and Philo. It was a community that many scholars at first thought was Christian until historical information clearly proved that it was not only Jewish but that its origins pre-dated Jesus by hundreds of years.

By Jewish standards, the Therapeutae community was unique. It was a cloistered Jewish community that was centered very near Alexandria but that had other centers in every district in Egypt. Jewish monasteries are almost non-existent in Jewish history, but they existed in Egypt a few hundred years prior to the time of Jesus and were probably started by Jews who were heavily influenced by Buddhist missionaries that had traveled to Alexandra.

These communities consisted primarily of retired Jewish men and women who turned over their assets to the communities. In some ways they approached what in the 1980s and 1990s were called Century Villages in South Florida. Those more contemporary communities were condos bought primarily by retired New York and New Jersey Jews that were seeking an active inexpensive retirement life with like-minded people in Palm Beach and Broward Counties.

The earlier communities were a contemplative order where individuals not only prayed following Jewish practices but also studied in individual isolation for much of their week. Philo tells us that they would come together once a week in a joint session with the men and women separated by a small waist high wall with joint men and women singing, study, and religious services. Their efforts focused on Torah studies but many also became expert in medicine, Greek philosophy, and Egyptian mystical knowledge.

Although my life is quite different from their existence, I find what occurs in my life at 65 in San Miguel to be somewhat parallel to what occurred near Alexandria. In this community of San Miguel and although my wife and I are not Jewish, we spend a great deal of time with our Jewish friends studying Torah, Talmud, and Kabala. We volunteer with Dr. Haywood Hall to help make his training program for emergency physicians be a successful venture and with Hospices to help them build a useful organization for San Miguel. In addition, we are regular participants in a philosophy group, where we learn a great deal more about the Greek and other great philosophers of this world.

Thus, what happened in the Therapeutae community so many years ago seems very reasonable to my wife and I. Indeed, I can see a very bright Jewish boy being brought to such a community to learn and grow in Torah. I know my Jewish friends and I can easily see this community taking responsibility for the education of such a boy. They would teach him their understanding of what it meant to be Jewish and what it meant to be in a relationship with God. They would teach him the art of healing as the Greeks and others knew it, the mysteries of Egyptian magic, and the great works of the Greek philosophers. Thus, Jesus would become a very educated man for his or any era.

When he eventually went back to his homeland of the Galilee as a young man, he would be very unusual to his many brothers, cousins and fellow Galileans. His knowledge of his religion would be equal to and even beyond that of the most religiously informed persons in Israel. Although very devout, he would focus not on the letter of Jewish law, as was common in Israel; but rather on the spirit of that law that was more consistent with Alexandria Jewish thinking.

At the time, Israel, like other nations in the region, was a very sexist society; but he would believe women were quite capable of the rigors of intellectual thought and would treat them accordingly. When he saw one or more persons needing healing, he would heal them. Although Jewish thought instructed Jews not to engage in magic, he would consider it quite natural and would use it if it seemed appropriate for the occasion.

More significantly, he would think differently and even talk differently than his peers. He would think on a much deeper philosophic level and then he would speak in a way that would recognize the difference in his thought processes and those who listened to him. For example, he would use the Greek method of speaking in stories and parables to explain his philosophic points. He would realize that he had much greater knowledge than his “students” and he would only explain his lessons in ways that he felt his “students” could understand and would wait to teach them more advanced lessons when he felt they were ready for those lessons. He would also impart more advanced lessons to those students close to him and provide others more simple and general lessons to those unfamiliar with his teachings.

He would also have different political views than the average person from the Galilee, but he would have enough sense to not create hostility with those around him. The typical Galileans experienced remarkable hardship under Roman occupation and their Jewish pride made most of them very anti-Roman. This large set of Jews was called Zealots. However, Jesus would be pro-Roman because of his association with the Egyptian / Jewish Therapeutae community.

Philo of Alexandria, a probably leader in that Therapeutae community, was very much a part of the Roman establishment in Egypt. His brother was the very wealthy Treasurer of the Egyptian Roman province and his nephew was a Roman General, who later was a key leader in the destruction of Jerusalem.

As noted earlier, Jesus spent some of his youth near the Temple of Onias. Thus, Jesus would naturally think the temple leaders in Jerusalem were fundamentally wrong. He would be against their religious leadership and would logically disagree with their point of view while not advocating rebellion against Roman rule. For example, the Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” From historical records we know that the Alexandrian Jews had even given the very expensive front bronze doors to the Temple in Jerusalem, but they did not agree with the religious positions taken by the priests of the second temple in Jerusalem.

We know that Jesus was a teacher of spiritual wisdom and he did not engage in open discussions about theology. First and foremost, Jesus was Jewish and we can say that he was a “Reform Jew,” that is he focused on the spirit of Jewish law rather than on the dicta of the letter of the Jewish Law. He might have been an unusual Jew for his time, but his message was truly Jewish in character.

So, Where Did the Alpha Interpretation Come From?

Later Christian theologians interpreted primarily the events around the life of Jesus to give us what we call today Christian theology and what I call the Alpha Interpretation. The most important early Christian theologian was Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons toward the end of the second century. He was committed to achieving narrative integrity between the Old and New Testament in which the New Testament complemented and fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament.

To him, the consistent Bible theme was that God created and then redeemed the world first with creation and later with life and eventually the death of Jesus. Irenaeus felt that Jesus fulfilled the Bible prophecies and thus restored humankind to communion with God. Essentially, Christ reversed Adam’s disobedience (i.e., original sin) with the sacrifice of his life on the cross. By mere belief in Jesus as the Son of God, a person becomes part of the redemption earned by Christ.

The Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong refers to this redemption as the rescuer mentality and notes it is related to the Jewish Yon Kippur, which was designed to be an occasion to pray for atonement or restoration. The concept of scapegoat came from this holiday. Essentially, to be human meant that you needed atonement from your past evil acts or sins. Building on this concept, Paul, who was a devote Jew, said, in First Corinthians that “Christ died for our sins.” Somehow, this came to mean that our sins required the death of Jesus and thus the concept grew that the sacrifice of Jesus was made on the behalf of humankind. The Gospel of Mark continued this theme by using the word “ransom.” Although I think Bishop Irenaeus was wrong, I can easily see how he reached his conclusion.

In arguing against the rescue mentality, Bishop Spong questions the underlying assumption of Bishop Irenaeus, who believed that the Garden of Eden at one time was a perfect place rather than a work in progress. Spong reasoned that if there was no fall from perfection, then the sacrifice of Jesus could not restore something that was never lost. To make his argument, Spong cites the theory of evolution that makes the Adam and Eve story at best a legend. Spong further argues that even as a symbolic story, the Adam and Eve story does not work because there never was a perfect creation and thus there could not be a fall from perfection into imperfection or sin. Thus, the logic of Bishop Irenaeus fails, as does the Alpha Interpretation.

In summary, early Christian Roman theologians connected the story of Abraham and Isaac from the Torah to somehow interpret that Jesus was God’s sacrifice for the original sin of humankind committed by Adam and Eve. Interestingly, the Jewish community felt that God clearly outlawed human sacrifice in the Torah. Thus, the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross makes no sense to the Jewish mind even if it did make sense to the Roman mind of Bishop Irenaeus.

In addition in Jewish thinking, calling Jesus God or the Son of God was another remarkable theological leap of logic, but again it was not much of a leap for the Roman mind that even called their emperor God and Son of God. To Jews, there is only one God and the Roman Christian concept of a three in one God is foolishness and possibly idolatry. To the Roman mind that was used to worshipping many Gods, the three in one God was quite reasonable.

From the New Testament, we know that Jesus used the terms “Son of Man” and “Son of God.” Thus, a literal use of language can lead someone, especially in the Roman context, to infer that he was saying that he was the Son of God. In addition, he continually spoke about the Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God.

I believe that Jesus was well schooled in Greek and was quite familiar with the Platonic concept of the ideal. For example, to Plato the reality was not any given physical chair but rather the ideal concept of chair. This manner of thought is very hard for today’s college philosophy student’s to understand and would be nearly impossible for the average uneducated Aramaic speaker to understand. Nevertheless, Jesus was working with that concept when he spoke about Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Man, Son of Man, and Son of God.

For us in the twenty-first century, I think his notion of Kingdom of Man and Kingdom of God corresponds to what we would call mind-set in English. For Jesus in his time, there was no parallel word in the very simple Aramaic language that he had to use. Thus, Jesus would have a very difficult time presenting his message to his people and furthermore the chance his message being misunderstanding would be great, especially when you realize that the recording of his message took place decades after his crucifixion.

To Jesus, when a person was acting with a mind-set that was ego desire centered, he was in the Kingdom of Man mind-set and was the Son of Man. When a person was acting with a loving and concern for the oneness of all mind-set, he was in the Kingdom of God and was the Son of God. Thus, due to his own advanced inner development, Jesus was almost always in that Kingdom of God mind-set and thus he was the Son of God. However, so was anyone else with such a mind-set. His choice of words was merely a description of how one thought.

Although this interpretation is reasonable for the twenty-first century mind, one must understand the use of the term “Son of God” in the Roman context. Roman emperors used such language to declare themselves a God and above any law. Thus, in reaction against the notion that an Emperor could be God, Christian theologians used such language to argue that Jesus was a God of greater stature than Roman emperors and thus worthy of being worshipped. This language became so important that it became the centerpiece of the 325 CE Nicene Creed that set the dogma for the newly Emperor recognized Roman Catholic religion.

In the Jewish context, the phase “Son of God” was very provocative. Only God was God. To imply that any human was God was fundamentally not Jewish. Thus, when Jesus used such language to his Jewish audience, he was almost asking for a misinterpretation of his words by his enemies. A reasonable guess is Jesus used such language to provoke his audience to think and carefully consider what the Kingdom of God or Heaven meant. Unfortunately, his use of such language was the primary argument against him by his enemies at his trial.

The death of Jesus on the cross was central to the Alpha Interpretation of the Bible. Of note is the simple fact that almost every detail of the resurrection of Jesus differs from one gospel to another. The Alpha Interpretation says that Jesus was the willing scarify of God for the redemption of humankind. Let us assume that Jesus did not die, but somehow survived the cross.

If that were true, the logic of the Alpha Interpretation fails. Furthermore, if he had survived much of what is said in the New Testament gospels was merely a cover story to discourage the Jewish and Roman authorities from seeking Jesus and putting him back on the cross. Think about it: once experiencing the pain of the cross, would you not create a story to discourage your enemies from crucifying you again?

Clear evidence exists that Jesus did not die on the cross if you are willing to disregard the discussion of miracles and adopt a more scientific perspective. First, Josephus said in his history that Jesus was alive after his crucifixion. Secondly, we know from the New Testament that Jesus said himself that he was alive after his crucifixion and his disciple Thomas even place his hand inside of the wound of Jesus.

Do you need more proof? He was on the cross significantly less time than was normal for a Roman crucifixion and the Roman guards did not break his legs, as was the normal practice. The sponge given him could have been a drug to render him unconscious and the Roman guards could have been a part of the conspiracy to save his life, as Jesus had saved the life of Roman Centurion’s slave a few years earlier. Of note from the Gospel of Mark, a Roman solider standing at the cross did say, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

The events after the crucifixion also indicate Jesus survived the cross. According to the New Testament as already noted, he appeared alive several times to his friends for several months, while he was recovering. The very fact that a fiction was created to say he ascended into heaven confirms that he was alive and eventually fled Israel to a place such as Edessa (now Urfa) outside of the Roman Empire, where the king of that city state had invited him to come and where they spoke his language. Edessa was the first entire city in history to convert to Christianity.

In summary, there are reasonable grounds to doubt the Alpha Interpretation in spite of its extreme popularity. The Alpha Interpretation was clearly the invention of those that lived after Jesus and it was based on a highly questionable set of assumptions that tried to connect the statements of the Old Testament with those of the New. Clearly, the Alpha Interpretation is not consistent with Jewish thought and the fact that Jesus was Jewish raises very serious questions about the correctness of this Roman Christian theologian’s interpretation.

What Was the Message of Jesus?

When Jesus went to Israel, he was profoundly impressed with the devotion and religious practice of his less educated first cousin John. Jesus was not seeking any political power but he was disgusted with the treatment of his cousin by the Jewish King and the improper use of power by the religious leaders of his time. He had no fundamental quarrel with Roman rule because he saw flawed Jewish leadership and he saw the value of the Roman peace in Egypt.

Jesus was not rebelling against the Roman Empire, as many of his countrymen were doing. Instead, he wanted reform in how his fellow Jews approached their religion. His actions clearly showed his desires. He was a Reform Jew, who brought a remarkable message directly to his people and indirectly to humankind.

As I mentioned before, I call my understanding of the New Testament and related documents the Omega Interpretation. I must confess that these are my ideas based on my own and my wife’s inquiries. My studies tell me that the spiritual wisdom taught by Jesus was not new and in fact it was quite parallel to the other great Axial Period religious thinkers throughout the world. In my mind this does not lessen the importance of the message brought to the world by Jesus but rather makes it even more important for us to learn and follow.

Jesus argued that essentially goodness can exist in each of us and that we need to develop our inner love so that we deeply care for everyone and everything. In the Aramaic language of his time with its extreme use idioms and of only the present tense, the concept was difficult to explain to his people. His solution to this language problem was to talk idiomatically and in parables about the Kingdom of Heaven in order to help them understand how to developing their inner self.

He then argued that as each person develops their inner goodness, that their subsequent actions toward others would bring goodness into the world. In the Jewish tradition, these acts are called mitzvot. When we perform them, we help create the Kingdom of Heaven outside us and our goodness comes back to us in the positive actions and reactions of others toward others and even ourselves.

This concept of a present Heaven within and outside us is the central message in the spiritual wisdom of Jesus. It is simple and has nothing to do with a Heaven as a place to go after death, but it has everything to do with creating a state of consciousness here and now. He was just trying to get his simple but profound concept across. Unfortunately, few understood then, as evidenced by the subsequent Jewish War; and few understand now, as evidenced by the religious tensions and wars today. His message had nothing to do with his experience on the cross and the fact that he might have or might not have died on that cross. His message had nothing to do with him being some sort of human sacrifice for the redemption of original sin.

To Jesus, what was heaven? It is helping a child learn and grown into what he or she can be. It is making peace and protecting the environment. It is you growing into the best person you can be. It is you helping others grow into the best persons they can be. It is your gift of yourself to others, such as merely playing beautiful music for others or making someone laugh. Heaven is a process of you giving of yourself to others because of your love that extends beyond yourself to everything around you and beyond. Heaven returns your love many times over and in ways you cannot imagine. However, you should never give your love with anticipation of reward, as it must be a pure and unconditional gift of yourself.

Heaven is always in the present and only the present exists in heaven. That is the message of Jesus. It is so simple and yet so complex that many of us do not understand it and fewer of us put it into regular practice. Although his Axial period teachings were not new, his teachings remain universally profound and timeless.

Unfortunately, his views were misunderstood and reinterpreted by later Christians to mean that a person could find salvation and have an after life by merely accepting Jesus as God. Somehow the cross came to mean that Jesus died for the sins of only those humans that accepted him as God.

Overtime, the spiritual wisdom message of Jesus was forgotten and a theology replaced his message. Eventually that theology became a dogmatic loyalty oath and a religious practice that was designed to politically support the Roman Empire. Today, this Alpha Interpretation continues long after the fall of the Roman Empire and still defines what we corruptly called Christianity.

The message of Jesus was so simple: Develop your inner spiritually. Then you must let that spirituality with its spiritual wisdom guide your actions, as you live your life.

Why do I think the Omega Interpretation is superior to the Alpha Interpretation? There is a rule in logic called Occam’s Razor that says we should always use the simplest explanation that requires the fewest remarkable assumptions when we select a theory or interpretation to use. To accept the Alpha Interpretation, we must make some highly questionable assumption that there are some linkages between the Hebrew Bible prophecies and the New Testament. In addition, we must believe some remarkable miracles took place such as the ascent of Jesus into a place called Heaven that Jesus himself asserted did not exist.

I need to emphasize that last point. The Gospel of Luke clearly quotes Jesus as saying that Heaven was not a place. However, later in that same gospel, it says that Jesus ascendant to a place called Heaven. Either Jesus was wrong about Heaven or some one making up or repeating the cover story did not understand the teachings of Jesus. Either way, the Alpha Interpretation is logically an absurdity.

I also believe that Jesus got his idea of the soul / body dualism from Plato and the form of the soul from Aristotle. Like Plato, Jesus felt each living human had a body and also a soul. Plato is considered the father of psychology because of his views on the soul and many of the views of Jesus about the soul are also of a psychological nature. Like Socrates and Plato, Jesus felt the soul was immortal and at death the soul is released from the body.

I also suspect that Jesus may have believed in reincarnation as did Plato and that is why one reads of so many references to re-birth in the New Testament. From Aristotle, Jesus got the idea that when the soul was in the body and only when it was in the body that the soul could with a conscious effort actually grow and mature. For both Aristotle and Jesus, the soul of more inner developed persons contained an increasingly strong rationality capable of reasoning.

The Omega Interpretation assumes that Jesus was brought-up in a Jewish community in Egypt to be a well-educated Jew and that he somehow survived the experience of Cross. Given the facts we know, both of my assumptions are reasonable and do not require us to accept leaps of faith grounded in miracle stories. Thus, my conclusion to my argument is that the Omega Interpretation is superior to the dominant and widely accepted Alpha Interpretation.

In addition, which version – Alpha or Omega — is likely to be more useful to our world? If we accept the Alpha version, we are told to merely accept Jesus as God as our savior and we can go to the ATM machine with our prayer card any old time and request our favors and gifts. If we accept the Omega version, we are told that if we want salvation we must do the hard work of developing our inner self and move away from being ego centered and desiring material goods.

With the Alpha version, we are told we must separate ourselves from the rest of humanity who are by definition lesser people. With the Omega version, we are told that we are merely part of the larger oneness that we must always love and support.

With the Alpha version, we will find Heaven tomorrow if we espouse our faith today. With the Omega version, we can find Heaven now because of our active effort to create and uncover our better inner self.

The Omega Interpretation does not call on us to convert others to Christianity as each of us is on our own path called life. However, it does encourage us to help others that wish and seek our help. The Omega Interpretation tells us that God gives each of us two important gifts: life and free choice. We are not to subvert those gifts of God either for ourselves or for others. As we move down the path called life, each must make his or her choices and hopefully they will always include being willing to help others.

Call me a liberal. Call me a conservative. Today, I just wish all of us could first hear and then merely live what I believe is the true message of Jesus. If we could, this would a less tortured world. If we could, we would be one step closer to achieving what I believe Jesus meant when he preached about having heaven on earth in his and now in our time.